Meet Rev. Dr. Mark Fowler
I have often thought of Pentecost and the activity of the Holy Spirit as wind and fire, of the birth of the church with thousands of folks swept up in the witness of Peter (although I have been amazed that the church does not utilize the scripture from Joel that Peter used in this “birth” sermon of the church, hmmm!) It is a dynamic and dramatic experience that is reported at Pentecost.
In an age when we are drawn to the “big show”, the dramatic increase in numbers, the pyrotechnic displays and the moment-by-moment sensory overload so central to our consumer culture, the Pentecost story could be easily exemplified as a reasonable expectation. Shouldn’t the people of God, using God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, use the craft and expect the results of Pentecost to draw the world?
In a time when the traditional church is in traumatic dislocation, loss of privilege, bereft of its traditional social influence and seemingly in disarray. At the recent United Methodist General Conference, proposals for changing ecclesiastical structures are left on the table, traditional covenants of ministry are tossed aside for a more effective way in which “only the temporally effective pastors are allowed to stay on the bus” (without a similar capacity for assessment being placed on the unassailable Episcopal office) and a casual vote declares a rather sizable number of delegates have put a restraint on the prevenient nature of the grace of God, a distinctive principal of the Methodist movement and a hallmark of its proclamation and effective evangelism. And, we all will move forward to try to capture lightening and wind in a bottle as an assurance of the future survival of the denominations.
For me this year, Pentecost has been preceded by a delightful bit of weather in Chicago. It has drawn me to the lakeside to sit and relax, reflect on the future. I have felt close to the experience of the disciples prior to the amazing events on Pentecost that gave birth to the church, a ten day retreat in the upper room. My mind flew to John Wesley prior to the Aldersgate Street experience that renovated his soul and was the source of the regeneration of the church through the birth of the Methodist movement. It came to clear memory that in a difficult turning point in my own ministry, that it was preceded by a time of wilderness in the desert southwest where I experienced the disorienting reality of my own life in the vast and unfamiliar landmarked desert.
In this anxious time for the church, we cannot fancy ourselves capable of doing the work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of the church. Nor do we exactly know what form it will take or what methods of evangelism and discipleship will be most effective to be embraced in the mission dei toward the fulfillment of God’s purposes for the creation and the beloved. We must discipline ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit’s presence and work among us and in the creation. We must Sabbath intently and yearn for God and trusting the promise that “in these last days, God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh…and the daughters and sons will prophesy and the old will dream.” And, the dreams and visions will be of a world re-born and the loving purpose of creation will be fulfilled in our experience!